One to go...
To probably 90% of the individuals who pay attention to women's soccer in the United States, the discussion of the end of the WPS [Women's Professional Soccer] may have came to a surprise to...no one.
With a league in legal battles with a former owner, teams folding left and right over the years, and a 'national' league only existing along the east coast; it was only time before this program was pulled from life support.
That time was this week. Like all things deemed confusing and questionable, through Facebook WPS announced that it would be ending all actions as a women's soccer league [to which I quickly unclicked 'Like' and 'unfollowed'] effective immediately. The fans were a gasp and the columnist were thinking, "Your point being?"
More importantly, instead of this perpetual finger pointing of right and wrong, owner vs coach vs player vs media garbage that even this writing has been wrapped up in; we must turn our eyes towards the future [because there will be one] and asking the simple question:
I'm only speaking from personal experience, looking only at the niche of soccer that is in the Great Plains, and as a growing [and learning] owner what is working for me compared to other programs by term of growth of the game, and the Kansas City Shock. Like all 'good' thoughts, I'll be breaking this into three pivotal areas; ownership, team management, and community:
- Ownership: Hopefully to no ones surprise; I adamantly refuse to be the coach of the Kansas City Shock, not to mention that our requirements for a coach have so many prerequisites that I wouldn't even qualify. Bigger then this is one area that I believe many clubs struggle with; coaches as owners. Some coaches are God's gift of coaching and business ethics, and some of them pull it off, but not nearly as many as those who are currently attempting it. Like any other entertainment business [because in the end, it is entertainment that people are showing up for] there must be a disparity between the business side and entertainment side of a program. I want to be able to focus my time and energy on the growth and marketability of Kansas City Shock LLC. It is a coaches responsibility to provide the reason for growth by placing the proper players on the field, and it is my job to ensure that we find the right coach for this position [not an easy task]. I firmly believe in delegation [not to be confused with promotion/relegation] and a managerial hierarchy, taking a business model and having select individuals step up for specific tasks. Within just the Shock, we have a General Manager, Director of Marketing, and Director of Sales...so far, and these are people that have come together for one key reason; to grow women's soccer within the Great Plains. When we decide to make a divide between business and entertainment, yet also provide the market with owners who are actually passionate about the sport. That's when we'll see growth. When the leaders of the organization drink their own kool-aid and buy into their own product, that's when we'll see growth. There is no excuse for a owner to 'assume' that their going to have a financial loss at the end of the fiscal year. Anticipate the worst, but always expect from yourself and your staff the best.
- Team Management: I've had several people contact me, giving 'words of wisdom' for the growth of the Shock; what works and what doesn't work. More then once I've been informed that I need to bring in talent at the coach and player level from the 'soccer powerhouse areas of the United States', such as North Carolina, Washington, and California. Part of knowing your program is knowing your clientele. The people of the Great Plains [the middle of the United States] can be very, very arrogant and prideful people. Many started as farmers, were overlooked by the white collar world, and went to bed each night knowing that without them, those white collar workers wouldn't exist. That chip on the shoulder hasn't changed in well over 100 years. I passionately admit that it applies to myself as well, and that's why repeatedly I've told so many; "If you bring in people to do a job in the Great Plains that the people of the Great Plains are convinced they can do just as well, if not better; you WILL lose your business." The same applies to team management [coaches and players]. There is no excuse to assume that there is a lack of talent in the Great Plains. Kansas University just signed over an All-American from Ohio State University, University of Missouri sat in the Top 20 of the nation most of the year last year, and yes; there are professional players that have come out of this area. Why go searching elsewhere, if the best product is in front of you? What does it say when you have hometown talent on the field and they win against the 'powers' of the world? Additionally, making sure that our coach is on the same page with us is crucial; they have to realize and accept that it is not going to be easy in the beginning of a club, I think anyone can testify to that. They have to see that this program will only be as powerful as it is tied in locally, and because of that; our coaching staff will be local as well. With that said, I'll add this, if there is one thing that'll "geek" out individuals around here, it is other cultures. Because of this, the concept of international players is a very lucrative incentive as well. Bringing in someone from the FFA W-League to cow town Kansas City is instant celebrity status for them, and promotes the program that much more. Goodness, look at what happened in Boston when they signed two from Australia, large media gains.
- Community: Naturally it is easy to suggest that without a community, you have no fans, without any fans, you have no business. If there is an area of women's soccer that I think we have missed the mark on the most; it is community involvement. I am not talking about face painting booths and kids games; I'm talking about the idea that we've currently settled on. So many soccer matches with the WPS revolved around children involvement. That's great, it's always wise to continue to promote future generations of players, but why have we ignored the rest of the audience? Why do we instantly write off the 20-30 year old males, suggesting that they'd rather watch baseball? We were so quick to assume that our focal point of an audience is going to be below the age of 16 that we instantly took a financial loss. 16 and younger have piggy banks and birthday money, but that's it. They will get tapped out on cash eventually, and we are in the business to make money, remember? I dream of seeing fans on our field from every walk of life, the United States was once referred as the 'melting pot of the world', and if that is true and soccer is the international langue, there is no reason why our stands won't be full. When your clientele comes to realize that you only exist because they're there, and if you provide a good product and service, they will return time and time again. I've browsed through some of the WPSL team pages for the Big Sky South Division, a division that we're likely to enter in 2013. There are eight programs in the division, several do not have Twitter, Facebook, or their own webpage. One even stated that they may not have enough players to field a team this year. How is this even an option?!?! Being part of a community is recognizing that you also have to 'plug-in' to world. The Shock has grown leaps and bounds, strictly from the use of social media and constantly interacting with the world. Not a day goes by that something isn't posted through Facebook, Twitter, or our own site. I've spoken to our staff countless times and emphasized that if we're not noisy, we will be forgotten, and our task right now is to build up motivation and anticipation for the '13 season, and hold that momentum for a full year. That is not possible without the community. Our Director of Marketing compiled a mass e-mail list of media outlets and this week sent out communication to them, asking if they'd like to be kept up-to-date with our progress; a resounding yes from many of them. The same applied for area colleges, so many of them were amazed that a program reached out to them and asked if they'd like to be informed of advancements with our team; such as tryouts, etc..We have contacts out along the Kansas/Colorado border, nearly 400 miles away, asking how they can purchase t-shirts. That's community, that's involvement, that's being connected and never stopping.
Of course, like all things placed on the internet, this is solely my opinions, and with all of that said, there is one key factor that we must also remember:
- WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT MY BUSINESS MODEL FOR MY CLUB WILL NOT WORK WITH A CLUB IN NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK. It is vital to understand that while a governing body of league officials are required, like any professional league, every club must 'find its own path to success'.
Knowing your community, understanding your staff, and developing a strong, people based business plan are all ways to grow the game and take women's soccer to the pedestal that it deserves to be on in this country.
P.S. Care to take the dare and be different? Come learn more by following me at Twitter (@CoachDaugherty) along with the first WPSL team in the Great Plains, the Kansas City Shock.